There’s a deadline coming.
Does that make you feel like rushing?
Me too. Here’s an alternative:
- Rushing means doing things while flustered. Rushing loses time to task-switching, acting before thinking deeply, creating then re-creating in order to arrive at the right output.
- Flowing means doing things while calm. Flowing thinks deeply before acting, enabling the first output to be the right output. No waste.
When there’s a lot to do (and there always is) the temptation is to rush, to go fast, to skid around corners.
When we recognize the urge to rush, switching to flowing means the same output, but no skid marks.
‘Feel-good’. Adjective. Meaning “a feeling of happiness and well-being.”.
It ties two words together that mean far less apart. Consider your team:
- Being ‘good’: Your work is exquisite and your results are strong. You get the job done. But without the other, you’re just a silo, missing opportunities to germinate ideas or relationships with your peers.
- Being ‘felt’: Everyone knows you’re there, riffing on ideas, building bonds. But without the other, it’s an empty promise that leaves your peers confused what you bring to the table.
Neither truly thrives without the other.
Does your team have ‘feel-good’, or just ‘feel’ (or ‘good’)?
What is ‘being stuck’?
It’s what we say when we stop thinking.
There’s a code to it:
- There’s too much to do: Code for “I need to organize how I invest my time.”
- It’s too complicated: Code for “I need to better understand this.”
- I don’t know where to begin: Code for “I need to draw the roadmap.“
- I don’t know where to go next: Code for “I need to re-draw my roadmap.”
The ‘code of stuckness’ suggests there’s no such thing as ‘stuck’. On the contrary, ‘stuck’ indicates there’s immediate action you can take.
Do you–or your team members–ever feel stuck? If so, it’s time to act.
Now there’s a job title that shouldn’t exist.
Yet it does.
In the old economy, ‘making sandcastles’ is a worthless skill that people should stop pursuing in favor of sensible, stable work.
In the new economy, ‘stable’ went away. As “sensible” gets automated, genius finds new means of expression.
Sometimes genius creates spaces at the edges that shouldn’t exist. Where automation doesn’t exist. Where genius can shine.
There are parts of your team’s work that exist on the edges where your genius shines. What are they?
There are 2 ways to run in the rain:
- Running from the rain: To get back indoors as quickly as possible. This doesn’t make you less wet while out there, or dry faster once indoors.
- Running in the rain: Though not necessarily directly toward the door. This may give a divergent perspective on a familiar environment and creates a more memorable walk.
The rain didn’t change. You did.
When it rains on your team, does it send everyone racing for the door, or give you all a new perspective you can leverage for good?
You might simply need to use the ones you have better:
- A fancy new easy presentation app, or clear concise communication in an email?
- A brand new computer to run your big apps faster, or a lighter, leaner tool for the job?
- A limitation forced upon you by your tools, or an opportunity to find a creative new solution?
What tool-based limitations does your team experience that clarity, focus, and creativity can’t solve?
Are you a team newbie or part of the old guard?
Is it possible to be both at the same time?
- Newbies: These have many fresh new ideas, but have knowledge gaps due to inexperience.
- Old Guard: These know the ropes, but risk being unable to see beyond them.
- Combined, “New Guard”: These have the wisdom that comes with experience, while actively nurturing and maintaining a fresh, “newbie” perspective.
How could you–and your teammates–aspire to be the team’s New Guard?
Give yourself a number.
Great at what you do? That’s a 10.
Just starting out? Make it 2. New but nice? Try a 4.
Now give everyone on your team a number (don’t tell them). Every relationship you have on the team is a number:
- You plus them: You work, tasks get done, nobody gets hurt.
- You minus them: Work gets done, but “ugh.”
- You multiplied by them: What you do raises the bar for the whole team.
- You divided by them: One if you must go. You don’t care who.
Great collaborations on a team have high numbers.
What frustrates you?
Let me help, how about:
- Being pulled in too many directions at once? Stuck.
- Having plans change after you invested your time? Stuck.
- Being accountable for a result you’re ill-equipped for? Stuck.
Frustration often comes from the feeling of being ‘stuck’.
Energy experts say ‘Shui’ (水) emphasizes the importance of ‘motion‘.
That when a rock is placed in a river, the water effortlessly finds another way.
Sometimes we forget that roadblocks to a linear action aren’t really roadblocks at all. They’re merely reminders to think more divergently.
Or, to be a little more Shui.
It was my first flight lesson.
It felt nice and steady. I looked at the airspeed indicator: 90mph.
Were we on the ground, that’d scarcely feel ‘nice and steady.’
- Go steady on the ground: Startup teams often rush around at 60mph so much that they miss important details as they whizz by the window – a quick way to ensure they never leave the ground.
- Go steady in the sky: Once teams take flight, details don’t ‘whizz by’, even at 90mph’. The team won’t appear rushed, but they’ll cover a lot more ground.
My instructor taught me, “Everything’s done slowly in a helicopter.”
Perspective matters. They can’t see your airspeed indicator.
But doesn’t changing the rules mean not going with the flow?
Sometimes, we’re so busy going against the flow that we don’t think to follow it:
- They’ll want to shop around anyway, why not anticipate it and do the research for them, showing them where the best deals are (and where you come out on top)?
- You’re going to voicemail anyway, why not anticipate it and prepare some wonderful, value-packed voicemails to give to them each time you end up there?
- They’ll need a moment to think anyway, why not anticipate it and offer it to them with an iced beverage before they ask to be excused?
Sometimes the flow has precisely what we need–we’re just too busy resisting it.
Is your team charming?
The pursuit of “perfect” often overcooks products into “sterile”:
- Every book on the Kindle is the same. No dog-eared pages, coffee stains, or torn dust covers. Just millions of words. ‘Perfect.’
- Every song on Apple Music is the same. No pops and noise, scratched discs, or storage limits. Just millions of songs. ‘Perfect.’
- Every movie on Netflix is the same. No cinema times, overpriced drinks, or kids kicking the back of your chair. Just tens of thousands of movies. ‘Perfect.’
Except they’re not perfect.
Kindle books have no memories, lower retention, and no personality. Apple Music has no secrets, no social glue, and winner-takes-all algorithms. Netflix has no date magic, few favorites, and no ‘I went to see that’ experience.
Unless you make pacemakers, the pursuit of ‘perfection’ shouldn’t erase variety and charm.
If you knew your idea would get stolen, would you share it?
In the western land of patent lawsuits, profit often comes from blocking innovation of ideas.
There’s an alternative that nurtures rapid innovation for brave teams, found in Shenzhen, China.
- Sharing not stealing: Shenzhen’s communities believe “sharing” ideas will drive faster innovation (3x speed of US).
- Being the source: All who implement or refine an idea know who can produce it for them: the source.
- Leave the old ways behind: Those not participating may make copycats, but they’ll be too late.
Sharing knowledge increases a team’s influence and generates more business.
Not by blocking progress, but by accelerating (and becoming attributed to) progress.
Will your team lead progress in your space?
Who controls your fulfillment?
First let’s ask, what fulfills you?
- “Making great designs” gives control to the design owner. “Growing in my craft” takes back control, because both design success or design failure leads to growth.
- “Leading a successful project” gives control to the client. “Nurturing those under my leadership” takes back control, because you can choose to nurture regardless of outcome.
- “Working on fun tasks” makes you unreliable, since no one knows if you’ll do your work. “Finding joy in my work” takes back control, because you control your mindset.
Don’t outsource your fulfillment. Where do you need to take back control of yours?
Yesterday we talked about ‘meeting spec’.
But what if the ‘spec’ keeps changing?
Some things are designed with rules (e.g. ‘setting and meeting goals’), whereas others have no rules (e.g. ‘following a vision’).
- Goals are obtainable, fixed points. These can be met by following ‘spec’. Fall in love with the process to achieve a goal.
- Vision is a world view, a moving horizon. Spec doesn’t apply here. Fall in love with the imperfect, incomplete nature of the journey, using goals as stepping stones, to achieve a vision.
If the ‘spec’ keeps changing, your team needs goals.
If goals take you nowhere, your team needs vision.
What is “Spec”?
Specifications are shared expectations.
The more people share the expectation, the truer the spec becomes.
But when someone decides spec doesn’t work, we have two choices:
- We follow our first inclination: to throw the anomaly away.
- We do what Deming taught Toyota: stop the production line and review it.
The trouble with Option 1 is that those ‘anomalies’ will compound. You’re left with the challenge of bailing faster than you take on water.
So we’re left with Option 2. If we must stop production to review things that don’t meet spec, it’ll get addressed quickly, and the whole team will be stronger for it.
You’re not using Option 1, are you?
What do “pressing publish”, “pressing record”, and “walking on stage” have in common?
They’re all really simple actions to perform.
Yet they’re all scary.
Because we decided they are. We forget what they’re made of.
Works of art, great presentations, and space travel, all consist of simple actions followed by more simple actions.
The next big step forward for your (great) team might be hidden behind what you’re afraid to do. We get to find out what we’re made of when we remember what our fears are made of.
Brewing pǔ’ěr tea in a Yixing clay teapot comes with many rituals.
If you search for it on YouTube, and you’ll quickly find videos of people conducting precisely choreographed ceremonies with a huge lexicon of unfamiliar terms.
It may appear extraneous. But to suppose so misses the point of ritual:
- For the discipline: Ritual trains us to honor and perfect our craft.
- For the reminder: Ritual celebrates the importance of process.
- For the culture: Ritual teaches us about who we are as a team.
Teams that encourage rituals see an increase in some of these three areas.
What rituals could your team create?
“Do” is a relative term:
- ’Try the task’: Set out to complete the task but if there’s a roadblock, it’ll get left undone.
- ‘Complete the task’: Whether it’s a success or a failure, consider this “done”.
- ‘Accomplish the task’: Implement and re-implement until it’s successful.
- ’Systemize the task’: Succeed in the execution, then document it so it need not be solved again.
How do you define “done”: tried, completed, accomplished, or systemized?
What is a “Market Hypocrite”?
It’s sadly much of the market: teams that make promises they’re not equipped to keep. They know it, but are unlikely to admit it, even to themselves:
- Don’t trust an obese dietitian: They’re unlikely to have the answer, but will promise they do.
- Don’t trust a broke marketer: They may compromise their genius by selling falsehoods.
- Don’t trust a counselor on wife #6: They don’t have a good record of reconciliation.
Prove your genius before asking others to believe in you.
Those who do this don’t need to hide behind sensationalism and flash sales. They get to communicate transparently, deliver consistently, and keep their promises.
Are there any areas of your team you risk being a “Market Hypocrite”?
How brave are you?
Most teams wouldn’t doubt their answer until asked to give away their trade secrets. That which they believe makes them competitive, or unique.
So, if you could give away your secrets, would you? For example:
- Your team’s secret sauce: Giving it away means it’s no longer secret. It also means your genius is finally truly on display for others to make a remark about.
- How you cut costs or double value: Giving it away means others can do it too. It also means your distinction is easily (favorably) compatible to the marketplace.
- How you systemize transformation: Giving it away means others can do it too. It also means your audience is better informed and feels safer in your care.
Giving it away means others can do it, too. “Others” includes your target audience. Doing so is an opportunity to serve more deeply.
Are you brave enough?
We’ve talked about how A players got that way: by leading B players into A players.
But who leads he/she who leads you?
To leverage a classic video-game term, this person needs a “1-Up”.
I define a 1-Up as “Extending council and grace to whoever is 1-Up from you on your team, so that they can grow, too.”
Giving them a 1-Up will give them ‘extra life’ to serve more powerfully.
Great teams understand that leadership flows both ways.
The rest are either too selfish or too afraid to try.
We’ve heard it said, “You need to be hungry to be successful”
Yet if you succeed, you won’t be hungry.
Focusing on your hunger is focusing on the wrong person.
Leadership is about getting others fed. Success starts not with being hungry, but with seeking those who are.
And then doing something about it.
Doing so makes a positive, needed change. One you’ll find, if you look past your own stomach.
“Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” – Dalai Lama
Tolerance, combined with compassion, adds a flexibility to teams and individuals that make them very tough to break.
A team that lacks either won’t survive a storm:
- A crazy day you managed to pull through. Tolerance lets you survive it, compassion forces you fix it so teammates won’t repeat your mistakes.
- A project that had issues. Tolerance lets you accommodate and complete it, compassion forces you to address the issues so they don’t reemerge for you or your teammates again.
We need both in equal measure.
One to let us never break down. The other to force us to protect each other, and those we’re business to serve.
“He’s still awake? What time zone is he on?”
He’s on Adam Standard Time.’
Of course, this isn’t an actual timezone.
Except it is, for me. I choose my waking hours based on what my body tells me because peak performance comes from knowing myself, not from merely copying others.
This rule applies to all of us:
- Our language: The best email reply might come from our intuition as well as the manual (assuming the manual doesn’t factor in intuition, it should.)
- Our roles: The best way to achieve our goals might come from our unique perspective as well as what the Position Agreement document says (assuming the agreement doesn’t flex, it should.)
How can we better appreciate our unique perspectives and incorporate them into our work?
On effective teams, “sales” isn’t a role.
It’s conventional wisdom: “Salesperson bends their arm so Production people can do Product things”. Except:
- Educating a prospect is sales.
- Educating a client is sales.
- Helping them evaluate is sales.
- Enrolling them with the best fit for them is sales.
- Onboarding and guiding them is sales.
- Production is sales.
- Delivery is sales.
- Support is sales.
“Sales” means sharing your mindset with those it’ll benefit–and keeping them there. It keeps them moving them toward their goals, removing self-doubt.
The entire team is responsible for that.
Sales isn’t a role. It’s every role.
Is your team like fast-food?
As with what we eat, teams can fall onto a spectrum ranging from “fast-food” to “organic”.
- Fast-food teams: These aren’t good for you, nor were they made to be. There is no cause, only a product, and a profit. The old way.
- Organic teams: These are good for you, on purpose. There is a cause, a product, and a profit. The new way.
As with food, organic tends to cost a bit more, but the product is much better.
Incomparable, really. Both are food, but one is merely a fill, whereas the other contributes toward long-term health and well-being.
Do you buy from fast-food or organic teams?
Do you belong to a fast-food or organic team?
What is ‘distraction’?
It’s an interruption of thought or attention; something we see as a negative, something to be overcome.
What if distractions had something to teach us?
- A thought gap: A distraction may be telling you there’s something to start, perhaps in your team, that hasn’t happened yet (E.g. “I keep reading about this exciting market shift… perhaps we should do something about it?”)
- Change needed: Or it may be telling you there’s something to stop–or change–that may have become extraneous or better suited to another team member (E.g. “These reports literally never get read, I dread having to write them.”)
We all get distracted. Perhaps there’s such a thing as a ‘useful distraction’, if we listen to what it’s trying to tell us.
Making great vanilla sponge is simple.
- Step 1: Make lousy vanilla sponge,
- Step 2: Learn why it was lousy,
- Step 3: Make slightly less-lousy vanilla sponge,
- Step 4: Go to Step 2.
To be good cake makers, we need to be prepared to be lousy cake makers, first.
We need to invest in cakes, products, ideas, offers, and ads that don’t work.
We’ve talked how important good vanilla sponge is for great teams. Are you following the recipe?
Do you like cats? I don’t.
I don’t mind if you like cats, though.
Whether we’re working with customers and clients, or our fellow team members, we are not the same:
- The best sales teams know how to adjust their message based on the culture of their prospects.
- The best content teams know how to adjust their message based on the language and tone of their readers.
- The best design teams know how to adjust the user’s experience based on what they’ll understand.